Sewing a foreign language

With my wedding ring crisis averted last Saturday I spent the rest of that weekend working on my Melbourne Cup/Honeymoon dress.

Said dress is #10 from Patrones 289, which means the instructions are in Spanish. I speak English (obviously) and a little Japanese which is so rusty it makes my jaw ache.

Patrones 289 Dress #10

Google Translate is close to useless when it comes to sewing instructions so I though it would be helpful for other sewers who subscribe to magazines in languages they do not speak if I documented my thinking process as I tackle a pattern more or less sans instructions. It differs for different patterns and I’ll sometimes consult instructions from a similar pattern to give me a quick feel for order, then I do some brain sewing before I get started. If I get stuck or am in doubt of the next steps I’ll pin or baste pieces together or place it on my dress dummy Scarlett to get a feel for how the item is shaping up.

This might be a bit epic so be prepared for far too many images and lots of words…feel free to skip ahead ;)

Right, lets begin: You might remember this image from my UFO post.

The pieces were already cut out (it’s the envelope on the far left) from a little while ago. I bought the fabric with the Patrones pattern in mind and I really liked my choice, a printed jersey from Spotlight.

Tangent: For those of you not from NZ/Australia you might no be familiar with Spotlight, it’s a kind of mashed together craft/knitting/sewing/homewares warehouse kind of store at the mid to lower end of the budget. I know a lot of sewers really hate them and wouldn’t be seen dead inside of one but I think they are getting better and they have their place in our sewing world. Recently I even saw the exact same fabric in a Spotlight store that I had only just seen in one of the higher end fabric stores. They sell Gütermann thread and Schmetz needles at good prices, two brands I use without a second thought, and they often have Birch and O-Sew overlocker thread on special. When I got my overlocker I was given 4 cones of (apparently) very high quality thread, the sign said $6.00 per cone retail. I chose black since I was sewing a black dress at the time but I also wanted white so I went to Spotlight and bought some O-Sew thread at $4 per cone. I’ve used both colours equally and never found a knot in the white cheap thread but the black expensive thread has had at least three (and still counting) and two of those were on the needle thread, luckily I saw them (I have high-speed vision apparently) so I guess “you get what you pay for” isn’t always true…and yes, I am aware of the irony that I got the black thread for free ;)

Ok back on track: This fabric however was not really a Spotlight success story, it was a fairly good price but the print was woefully off-grain and you can’t really correct an off-grain print in jersey. It fact it was so bad that I think it’s more plausible to assume it shifted during the printing process, jersey is tricky like that. I barley had enough for the dress but I wasn’t about to be defeated by some cheap fabric so I threw out the cutting layout and spent an entire day trying every which way I could to lay the pattern to not only match up the repeating chevrons but also to keep the important seams looking straight. I think I did a pretty good job and eventually I was ready to cut…then I made the mistake of cutting the back skirt piece on the fold…and it wasn’t supposed to be…I realized halfway though cutting but I was lucky enough to salvage it by moving it across and shrinking the outside edge seam allowances to just under 1cm, never the less it was enough for that weekend and into the envelope the cut pieces went until the other side of winter and here we are…

Ok, let’s get started: First things first, after transferring any markings I sew or baste any pleats, darts or other manipulations that need to happen to each piece before any main assembly, I think of this as the “first shaping” and helps me get my head around which pieces go together and the construction. This dress is pretty basic as far as that’s concerned, no pockets, just a heap of pleats on the front skirt piece and your basic bodice darts front & back. The faux wrap pieces on the front of the dress are attached at the armholes and have lots of  pleats too.

UPDATE: The pattern pieces below are copies of my Patornes pattern sheets, I promise I didn’t cut up the originals, see my explanation here.

Bodice front & back with darts pinned

Skirt front & wrap pieces with pleats pinned

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Next I assembled the basic dress parts, forgetting about the wrap pieces for now.

I attached the bodice front to the skirt front, the bodice back pieces to each of the skirt back pieces.

Bodice front & skirt front

Then I sew the centre back seam and insert the zipper.

Centre back seam sewn, zipper gets pinned

Now I have the dress front and dress back assembled.

Ready! My zipper colour choice was limited, it was either this dark purple or super hot omg blinding pink, so I went with the purple

There were four front wrap pieces and four tie pieces so I assumed there are two for each side, one as the outer and one as the inner facing.

Attaching the tie to the end of the wrap piece

I attached a tie to each wrap piece then lay the assembled pieces together and stitch the outside seam leaving it open at the armhole curve. Turn and press, baste open armhole edges together.

Inside out completed wrap piece, ready to be sewn, then turned…

Testing, testing & testing – Scarlett plays dress-ups

Next I pinned the wrap pieces to the bodice front and basted in place.

Attaching the wrap pieces

Nerd Moment Alert: after all that pleating – perfect 1.5cm shoulder and side seam allowances still in tact

Now it was ready to pin to the dress back and sew the shoulder and side seams.

Side & shoulder seams

After this step I tried the dress on myself. It looked a bit too big on Scarlett and indeed on me it was a bit too big also, I think the jersey I used had much more stretch than the pattern allowed for. I could also put it on over my head without even undoing the zipper so I ended up taking the zipper out and sewing the center back seam again and taking it in the sides.

I think the armhole and neck openings were supposed to be enclosed in bias strip but I did not have enough fabric so I did a basic seam edge and then hemmed the skirt. I used Scarlett’s hemming attachment for the first time and it was brilliant.

Ready for the big day

I think that’s enough pink fabric photos for one day, I promise more finished dress photos when I upload on the weekend. Photos here :)

Sewing in a foreign language really isn’t all that scary or difficult if you have a basic knowledge of all the main clothing items: dresses, shirts, skirts and pants. Just take your time and look at other similar patterns instructions to help you along.

Ok, I promise, that’s all for today :)

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9 thoughts on “Sewing a foreign language

  1. Thank you! I actually found you because I bought Patrones(my favorite magazine so far for sewing!) and google translate was worthless! I didn’t realize it would be. I was hoping there was a yahoo or other group that had English translations. I’m a beginner sewer! Any suggestions for translating these would be great! I bought the XXL pattern and couldn’t believe how gorgeous the patterns were!

    • It will be a bit hard for you at first being a beginner sewer while you build up what I call your “Sewing CV” but stick with it, you’ll pick it up eventually, it’s well worth the effort. I know it is hard to resist the amazing designs, they are so fashion forward :) I won’t get much other sewing done this year until I return from my honeymoon at the end of January but I want to post more Patrones garments next year, I hope I can help you out. Best of luck and please contact me again if you like and I can try and help you more xx

      • Thanks! Hopefully I will be a much better sewer in a few months. I am going to do regular patterns for awhile to learn more, but I love love Patrones! I will definitely keep reading here-! Lisa

  2. ok I was with you right up until the OMG YOU CUT YOUR PATRONES PATTERN SHEETS APART? Holy crap, I’m feeling physical pain right now! What if you want to sew something else from that magazine? Or make it again in another size? Seriously, tracing takes me less than 10 minutes, and I don’t ruin 30 other patterns.. Especially considering what we pay for these puppies outside Spain!

    I mean, they’re your magazines and all, but whoa…

    • Ah ha but I tricked you…I have a large format copier at work, I run off copies of the pattern sheet then cut them up (the copies I mean) ;) It copies in black and white though so afterwards I highlight any line markings for that piece. So fear not, I’m not a cutter, I’m a copier/tracer, my magazines are too precious to me :)

  3. Thank you!! :)
    It is so great to see with words, how other sewers approach patterns. I am not new to foreign language patterns, but I have not felt brave enough to tackle Patrones yet lol Though I should, as I love the patterns.
    I love this dress, and am extremely tempted to follow your pictures to make myself one…..

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